I grew up with a linear idea of how my life would go.
I was raised on diet of modern fairy tales that seemed to be a radical departure from tradition. Every quirky rom-com character who, after a period of time of getting it Very Wrong got to the Right Age, had the Right Job, the Right Friends and then came the Right Man. Happily ever after.
You could be a Bridget Jones or a Carrie Bradshaw, and you could Get It Wrong A Lot, just as long as you Got It Right In The End. With a typical “Sex and the City” twist, you could have it all, so long as having it all meant that you wanted it all. No longer were women waiting around for men to come save them. No, instead the world was your oyster — you could go out there and get the life you always wanted!
In a lot of ways, it mimicked my own upbringing. My parents have been married 48 years. In that time, my mother got an education, had a successful career, raised two children, attended every school meeting, drama night and music recital and still maintains an active social calendar. Having it all wasn’t so much a question as something that felt a little bit like my destiny.
I don’t know when my own sense of direction changed. Ambition has never been a problem for me. I was blessed to have a world class education and have traveled the globe — first as a student, and then as a writer and educator. Even the things that should have slowed me down seemed manageable. Coming out — first as bisexual, later as trans — seemed to impact my life and its quality, but fundamentally for the better. I’m a writer, and I live a happy life in London with my French bulldog, Miles.
I’m also 32, single and childless with no desire to change that. Conversations with strangers hinge on heavy pauses when they find this out about me – it’s even more challenging than asking them to accept my they/them pronoun. The subtext often flutters around the idea of “Oh, one day it’ll happen to you” or “hang in there,” but the truth is: I’ve never been happier. To me, having it all means having what you want and wanting what you have.
It can be hard for people to fathom that, even though my version of “all” doesn’t come with the idea of another person, I’m not anti-relationship. I don’t live in a world of dates and singletons. In my immediate circle, there are three couples and the same number of singletons. Coupledom, while not a personal aspiration, isn’t something that I find threatening or upsetting. I’m happy for my friends and appreciate and respect their worlds.
I’m also happy for myself, particularly every time I want to stay out late, take an impromptu vacation, take myself to see a movie or indulge without explanation. I don’t have to compromise when I don’t want to, and I get to sleep in the middle of the bed. These aren’t things that make me feel better about being alone, but moments that bring me active joy in my life. In the same way that I felt freedom when I stopped working in offices and gave myself up to the freelance life, I get a thrill from living my life on my own terms.
There was a time where I didn’t think like this. In my younger years, I was convinced I’d have a corporate career of some kind, marry and possibly have children. I didn’t have a roadmap, but I had a conventional idea of how it was meant to go. If I’d known then that I’d live in a world where my main impulse is to create – and to get to enjoy doing that – the Type A side of my personality would have sat in a corner and cried.
I do plan now, but it’s a lot more fluid. I’m open to change, I don’t get anxious when deadlines move and I know that when things happen, I get to go with the flow. Handling stress is easier and I feel present in my life. When it gets too much, I take the dog for a walk or I get a cup of coffee. I throw the plan out and I start again.
In the end, it’s about taking time to experience life to the fullest. That moment in the future may or may not come. Why put anything on hold if it’s something I want to do? Fundamentally, I’m open to everything, but I know that if it doesn’t happen, if I don’t meet another person, then I’ll have loved myself and my life enough to have it all.